Patagonia trek December 2007

This year no high mountain to climb, but instead going for a spectacular trek through the southern tip of South America, where the mountains of Patagonia are incredible and the scenery is stupendous.

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Below is the itinerary of the trek:

December 6:

Early morning (12:57am) flight to Panama City ( 6-1/2 hours), where I will change planes for a 7 hour flight to Buenos Aires. Arrival in Buenos Aires at 8:50pm.

December 7:

Full day to explore the center of Buenos Aires via an all day walk to the major highlights of the city. The evening will be spent enjoying a Tango show at Esquina Carlos Cardel.

December 8:

Early morning flight to El Calafate (Patagonia), where I will be picked up by the trekking guide, who will take me to the hotel. At the hotel, the group will meet and the guides will discuss the details of the trek during dinner.

December 9: Bus to El Chalten - Laguna Capri

After breakfast we travel by bus to El Chalten, a little and colorful town next to Mount Fitz Roy. To arrive to El Chalten we will cross 220 km (part of gravel road) through the Patagonia steppe, stopping at half way, where a picturesque inn is located, to enjoy homemade cakes and hot coffee. Once in Chalten we meet fellow travellers coming from up north (Route 40). We prepare for the trekking, leaving part of our belongings secure at Chalten, and carrying only the necessary for these three nights where we will lodge at the campsites inside Los Glaciares National Park. We hike up a beautiful trail next to ¨Las Vueltas¨ river that will take us to the first panoramic views of the Mount Fitz Roy. From now on, we will be approaching to De los Patos Lagoon and finally we will arrive to our camp next to the Capri Lagoon. (3 hs approx.) The Camp has been previously mounted, featuring spacious 3 people dome tents, used in double or single base. Each tent has sleeping bags, inner sheet and insulating mattresses. The camp has a large dining tent with table, benches, dishes and kitchenware. The sanitary services are provided with chemical bathrooms or latrine -type. We leave our belongings in our tent and we enjoy an afternoon walk to the sightseeing points around the lagoon.

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December 10: Mount Fitz Roy, De Los Tres Lagoon

Trekking. Early in the morning and carrying only your coat and the photo camera we can try to match up the morning sunlight getting pink in Fitz Roy granite walls. You only need this to feel the trip is worthwhile. After breakfast, carrying only day personal items such as our polar & wind jacket, gloves, our camera, water bottle and the box lunch we provide, we overcome the "Chorrillo del Salto", always with the impressive needles of the glacier in front of us. The first 2 hours are mainly flat, through forest and open areas along Fitz Roy trail up to Rio Blanco, with diverse bird life, until reaching Fitz Roy base, climbers basecamp on the east side of the mountain. From here it is a 400 m/1300 ft climb to the De los Tres lagoon on a steep trail that takes us around one hour and a half at gentle pace. This walk is one of the highlights in Los Glaciares National Park: Laguna de los Tres, with its zephyr blue colour, lays at the foot of the Fitz Roy massif, offering the views of Mts. Poincenot, Fitz Roy and the other peaks surrounding them are splendid, their needles rise up vertically in front of us approx. 1500 m over the glaciers. Mt. Fitz Roy, with its 3405 mts above sea level, is considered the “King of Patagonia” and also considered one of the three most beautiful mountains on Earth (together with Alpamayo in Perú and K2 in the Karakoram). We return to Capri Lagoon in late afternoon. (Total 5 - 6 Hs. approx.)

December 11: Mount Torre

Trekking. This morning we hike around Capri Lagoon down by the trail to Madre e Hija Lagoons through a dense beech forest following the Fitz Roy river. Through the Mt. Torre trail we get to Mt. Torre Full Camp. From the camp, a short hike takes us to glacier-fed Laguna Torre, where Fitz Roy river begins. This lagoon contained between moraines, generally piles floes that come off of the Grande Glacier that falls in its west side. It is usual to see icebergs pushed by the wind in the coast of the lagoon. The impressive group of Mount Torre needles with its slender 3128 meters/10262 ft height, frame the landscape, and the Adela range in the background complete this spectacular view. Walking time 3 to 4 Hs.

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December 12: Torre Glacier - El Chalten

In the morning we walk the area near Torre Lagoon to reach the old Maestri basecamp, located in a high site up along the north moraine of the lagoon, with nice views of the Solo Mount and the Adela Glacier. Optionally, you can choose to do a trek on the Mt. Torre Glacier Grande, the Holiday on Ice Excursion: we cross the Fitz Roy river on a tyrolean rope (horizontal fixed rope attached to both sides of a river), walk through a forest, descend the lateral moraine to the glacier where we put on our crampons (provided) and trek over the glacier’s surface, where we will visit crevices, ice caves and have the opportunity to develop our ice climbing skills (harnesses and ice axes provided) on the glacier walls with the proper advice of our experienced mountain guides. Late in the afternoon we walk back to El Chaltén along Fitz Roy river valley, where you will lodge that night. Total estimated time of the standard day: 4 to 5 Hs. If you go on the “Holiday on Ice”, it is 7 Hs plus the trail back to Chalten which is 2 and a half hours more.

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December 13: El Chalten - El Calafate

Free day. In the morning you can choose to explore the picturesque village of El Chalten, with the possibility of visiting The Climbers Chapel; or the estancia Madsen, home of one of the pioneering families in the area; or the Interpretive Center of National Parks. Or you can take optional excursions taking a bus to visit the area of Del Desierto Lake for a short hiking, that in spite of its name it's a beautiful beech forest surrounded lake, with hanging glaciers in its west side and it's located 45 Km out of town. Other options could be kayaking on Las Vueltas river or sailing on Viedma Lake. Around 5 PM we take the bus to El Calafate, the gateway to the huge glaciers inside the National Park, arriving there around 9 PM. Driving distance: 220 km.

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December 14: El Calafate - Perito Moreno Glacier

We dedicate this day to one of the World’s Natural Wonders: the Perito Moreno glacier. After breakfast we travel by bus, on a road that allows us to go through the folds left on the steppe by the glaciers, to the Magallanes peninsula where the southern entrance of Los Glaciares National Park is located. Its major attraction is the Perito Moreno Glacier which, because of unusually favorable local conditions, is one of the world’s few advancing glaciers. This ice field-type glacier flows down from the Patagonia Icefield, a big ice surface that with its 22.000 square kilometres is the third largest glacier area in the world, after Antarctica (14 M sq km) and Greenland (1 M sq km). The Perito Moreno Glacier is the only one in the world that shows a closure and rupture process. Huge icebergs from the glacier wall collapse into the De los Tempanos Channel. The roar of the gigantic ice rocks falling and crashing into the waters of the channel is a unique experience. Our bus will lead us just in front of the Glacier, allowing us to walk and view the Glacier from different viewpoints. We return to El Calafate using a different route. We will drive 80 km (1 and a half hour) to get and then again to come back from the glacier across the steppe, watching a wide variety of birds.

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December 15: El Calafate - Torres del Paine

We depart early in the morning (around 7 AM) from El Calafate to Torres del Paine for a 6 Hs drive through the spectacular landscape of the Patagonia steppe following part of the legendary Route 40, to get around Sierra de los Baguales, an impressive range in between Calafate and Paine. Choiques and flamingos are very common in this area. Almost 4 hours from starting our journey, we will be at the border crossing between Chile and Argentina called Paso Cancha Carrera - Cerro Castillo. We continue until we reach the Torres del Paine National Park. UNESCO gave to this park the World Heritage status, due to its unique wildlife and magnificent scenery. During our entrance to the Torres del Paine National Park, we start to see the different mountains that feature the area: Paine Grande, the Horns, Admiral Nieto and the Towers. We enter the Park by Porteria Sarmiento. A rich wildlife: guanacos, lesser rheas, condors and all types of wetland and buzzard birds, will be available for our eyes and cameras. We will stop in Lake Nordenskjöld and in Salto Grande viewpoints for short walks, to finally arrive to the Camping Pehoe Lake Full Camp after 6 hours of travel. Lake Pehoe Full Camp keeps the style of Laguna Capri and Cerro Torre Full Camps, but combined with the first class facilities provided by the campsite: good and clean bathrooms and hot water showers, water and electricity in each camping site. In the afternoon we continue to visit the westernmost side of the National Park, lake Grey area, where a short and easy hike along the south shore of the lake allow us to enjoy the blue icebergs that calving from the glacier in the northern side of the lake are pushed by the wind to this side.

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December 16: Las Torres - Ascensio river Valley

We dedicate this day to one of the most spectacular and classical trekking in the park: the Torres Trail. We transfer after breakfast driving to the trail start at Estancia Cerro Paine. We cross a suspended bridge and ascend the slopes of the Almirante Nieto Mount, bordering the Ascencio river. After one hour hiking up a steep slope, we get into the Ascensio river Valley, a narrow “V” shape alpine valley coming from inside the Paine massif. After one hour ascending we go into the Valley, and a gentle downhill leads us to Chileno Refuge, a cozy and comfortable mountain lodge, which can be a good turnaround point for those not willing to make a full day hike. But we don't recommend it as the best is yet to come. From there the trail leads us through the beech forest walking in a gentle slope along the river side, in the middle of unforgettable landscapes, to Las Torres base camp. There the climbers wait good weather conditions to climb Las Torres. We take a final climb through the boulders of the moraine, it's one hour to reach the Las Towers viewpoint: an amazing natural amphitheater at the bottom of the vertical granite towers with a glacier-fed lagoon and the three towers rising vertically 1000 mts from the glacier and reaching 2800 meters height above sea level. The lack of breath will be either because the climb and the sight. We go back to our camp on the same way we came. Walking time: 7 to 8 Hs

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December 17: Pehoe Lake Navigation, Del Frances Valley

Early in the morning we carry only the necessary belongings to be 2 days and 1 night away from our Camping Pehoe Full Camp, where the rest of our luggage will stay secure. After a short drive to Port Pudeto to board a boat, we cross sailing 45 minutes the Pehoe Lake and arrive at the Pehoe Refuge area in the far side of the lake. We leave unnecessary items in our tents and walk from there until reaching Del Frances Valley. It’s a beautiful mountain valley descending from the midLake Pehoe - Trekking Torres del Paine National Park with Patagonia Adventure Tripdle of the massif towards the Nordenskjold Lake. Flanked by The Horns to the east and by the impressive Paine Grande (3050 meters /10006 ft) to the west. The trail skirts Paine Grande south slopes and lake Skottberg, to take us after 2 hs and a half of continuous ups and downs, to the hanging bridge upon the French River. This breathtaking location is at the foot of both the 2700 mts south east face of Paine Grande (to the west) and the Horns, with its characteristic black sedimentary topping, to the east. We ascend the valley until the upper viewpoints located in a natural amphitheater surrounded by some of the most wonderful needles and walls of the massif: Cuernos, Espada (Sword), Mascara (Mask), Hoja (Blade), Aleta de Tiburon (Shark Fin), Catedral (Cathedral), Fortaleza (Fortress) and Paine Grande. The forest and the suspended glaciers that cause continuous ice and snow fallings, give us a unique scenery to this walk. We descend the same trail and turn west rounding Skottberg Lake until we arrive to our Camp for this night at Pehoe Refuge area. Walking time for those who reach the upper viewpoints: 8 to 9 hs. For those reaching the lower viewpoints: 5 to 6 hs.

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December 18: Grey Glacier Viewpoints

Another unforgettable day dedicated to the Grey Glacier, impressive glacier with 300 square kilometers of surface (115 square miles) and 25 kilometers long (16 miles). It overflows from the Patagonia Ice Field falling into Grey Lake. The Glacier produces enormous amount of blue icebergs that sail over the lake pushed by the wind towards the south, given the Patagonia Adventure Trip: Outdoor travel trekking Patagonia - Torres del Paine - Ushuaia Trek, Chile and Tierra del Fuegocharacteristic feature to this lake. Lake Grey trail leads from Pehoe Valley across ridges to reach Grey valley. The trail skirts the lake, going up and down the westerns slopes of Paine Grande, offering some of the most impressive sights of the Park, leading us to a wonderful viewpoint where we can appreciate the whole lake, the glacier and the mountains that emerge from the west of the Ice Field. From the high sections of the trail, many different viewpoints allow us to see the south end of the lake where the blue icebergs gather, the mountains rising far in the distance above glaciers Grey and Tyndall, and of course lake and glacier Grey. Two more hours walking and we arrive to another viewpoint just in front of the Glacier. All the trek is done between Andean bushes and lengas forest, at the shadow of the ice blocks that drape Mount Paine Grande. We come back along the same trail, crossing bogs, shrublands and forest. At the end of the day we sail back again the Pehoe Lake to the south shore and then we go to our accommodation in Puerto Natales, a picturesque fishermen town located in the shores of the Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) fjord. We walk this day about 8 hours. To the half way viewpoints, round way from our camp, 4-5 Hs.

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December 19: Puerto Natales - Rio Grande

Long drive today, though quite worthwhile. We leave Puerto Natales down south to reach the southernmost part of the continent, the legendary Magellan Strait, which we will keep on sight up to Primera Angostura, where we board the Ferry in which we will cross the Strait. This Pass, discovered by Hernando de Magallanes in 1520, was the natural and logical way to all vessels until de Panama Channel was open at the beginning of the XXth century. You will find yourselves wondering how those brave men dare to sail those waters in such fragile caravels. Once in Tierra del Fuego (literally, Land of Fire, due to the fires seen in the coast by the first european sailors, done by the local Indians to cook and heat) we enter back Argentina through Paso San Sebastián. A couple more hours to reach Estancia Las Hijas, where our Full Camp will be waiting for us, as well as a lamb cooked in the classical Patagonian barbecue style. A dinning saloon, toilettes and showers are available tonight.

December 20: Rio Grande - Tierra Mayor Valley

In the morning we learn about the ranch activities and how dogs deal with the sheep. By mid morning we continue south and driving a mountain path in the De Los Andes Cordillera we arrive to Solar del Bosque, a small and cozy mountain refuge located in the Tierra Mayor valley, where we’ll spend the rest of the day. After lunch, we go hiking to Laguna Esmeralda, a beautiful lagoon with Glacier Ojos del Albino in the background. We walk back to our lodge across a terrain full of beavers, which were introduced in the area from Canada around mid last century, and have notably modified the ecosystem. We can appreciate the huge changes the beavers are producing in this area.

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December 21: Ushuaia–Tierra del Fuego N. Park–Beagle Channel Boat trip

We leave behind the valley and a half an hour drive leads us to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the World. We leave our luggage in our hostel or hotel (we will not check in, as it is still early in the morning) and continue to Tierra del Fuego National Park, in the island south west corner that limit Argentina and Chile, where the Andes mountain range ("Cordillera de Los Andes") goes under the sea, an spectacular landscape characteristic of this island. We make a short hike in this area. After having our Box Lunch we navigate the Beagle Channel in a boat. The Beagle Channel, in the south shore of the Tierra del Fuego Island, forms part of the border between Argentina and Chile. In addition to the great scenery, we should see many species of marine mammals and birds. We enjoy our last dinner in the southernmost city in the World.

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December 22: Ushuaia City – Ushuaia Airport (USH)

Morning at your own to visit the town, which is located in the north coast of the Beagle channel. The town features interesting museums and its typical architecture. In the afternoon we are transferred to Ushuaia Airport. End of the Adventure Trip.

December 23: Buenos Aires - Los Angeles

Afternoon flight from Buenos Aires to Panama City (7h 20min) for a quick change of planes to Los Angeles (6h 48min). Arrival in Los Angeles at 10:48pm